top of page
Evening Standard





 By Helena Iveson

The Evening Standard


Jacqui, a 23-year-old English student from north London, is flying to America this weekend to help a childless couple conceive. Here she explains why she has made such a momentous decision.

 I HAD never really given my eggs a second thought until recently: at 23, it's not a topic of conversation that comes up. In two days' time, however, when I board my business-class flight to Washington DC, I'll be thinking about them a lot. I'm going to donate my eggs to an infertile American couple for £10,000 -an act that is illegal in Britain. They are desperate for a baby but can't conceive, and I'm desperate to complete my education, but can't afford to. In effect, I'm swapping my eggs for a postgraduate degree.

 When I moved to London last September to start my MA in English Literature, I split up with my boyfriend, who until then had been sharing my living costs. I moved into the cheapest shared house I could find in Harlesden, but even so I can't afford it. My parents help me out as much as they can; I sold my car and tried to get another bank loan - but was turned down.

 I already have an undergraduate loan of £9,000, my fees for the postgraduate course are £8,000 a term, and I live in one of the most expensive cities in the world. My only income is a postgraduate student loan of £2,000 that is supposed to last me two years.

 After four months of living off £20 a week, I was becoming increasingly desperate. I couldn't face the idea of giving up on my course - I want to be an English professor - so I began to think of other ways to raise cash. I considered getting a waitressing job but that would only pay £4.40 an hour, and I was already doing college work for 50 hours a week. If I was going to last my course, I needed serious money.

 I knew students who did lap dancing to survive, but I'm very shy and knew I couldn't do that. But I did start thinking about how I could use my body to raise money. I'd seen adverts asking for sperm and egg donors at my doctor's surgery there was no fee involved though - but when I looked online I came across a site based in Los Angeles called Egg Donation Inc. Once I saw the money they were offering, it was all I could think about. I wish there was another way, but I just can't think of any other options. I'm not doing this to buy a sports car but it means I can pay off some of my debts and I won't have to scrimp and scrape. It seems the perfect way out.

 I called the agency in LA. The woman I spoke to was very sweet, friendly and supportive. I needed to get a certificate from my doctor saying I was physically and mentally healthy, email them my photograph, a copy of my passport and a brief autobiography saying where I was from, my education and my family background. If I decided to go ahead, this would be posted on their online database, which is browsed by couples.

 THEY can search according to characteristics such as eye colour, height, racial group or religious background. I did all this but I was still undecided; everything felt very surreal and vague.

 I was told that since I was British and blonde, I should be snatched up very quickly, and I was. A week later, the agency called to say that they had a couple who wanted my eggs and to ask if I was still interested. It was then that the reality of it hit home. I decided to go ahead. After all, it was a lot of money. As soon as I said yes, I felt liberated from my worries. Within days, the agency sent through details of the itinerary and my tickets.

 I haven't told anyone what I'm doing, not even my parents. I'm the youngest of three children and had a very traditional upbringing in Surrey.

 My mother is a solicitor and my father is a retired engineer; they'd be horrified. They would love to have grandchildren and I think they would find it very difficult not to think of this child as family, so I've told them I'm going to America to do research.

 With no guarantee of success, only couples who are very desperate or very wealthy consider this option. I never want to have any contact with the couple who receive my egg: it could be anyone from Michael Jackson to a couple of well-paid lawyers; I don't really care. The agency insists that it thoroughly screens the couple to make sure they are suitable parents - so I have no worries there. The recipients wouldn't go through this unless they were desperate. I couldn't donate to someone I knew: that would be too confusing for the child and probably for me, too.

 I know the child can't turn up on my doorstep in 18 years' time: I've already signed a legal contract that ensures this will never happen. The same goes for me: I will never have any right to contact the child. I think that will give me peace of mind in the future, knowing that I won't have the past suddenly appearing in my life.

 I'm dreading the actual process. I'll be alone in a foreign county for three weeks, for most of which I'll be in a surburban doctor's surgery in Maryland.

 I'll be given a daily injection of a hormone-boosting drug that will make sure my menstrual cycle is at the same stage as the recipient. When this is established, a date for the operation can be set.

 On the day of the operation, I'll be given a local anaesthetic and told to lie back and relax as a doctor vaginally inserts a slim needle to collect the eggs - between five to 30 eggs are harvested.

 All my friends would be amazed to know that I'm prepared to go through this - apart from anything else, I'm really squeamish. One of the agency workers told me I should think of it as just being "Hoovered out", but I suspect it will be a bit more disturbing than that.

 If I get upset during the operation, I am going to remind myself that each egg is a useless cell to me, but a hugely important item to the couple receiving it. I don't cry after every period when I lose an egg, after all.

 There are risks involved: your womb can be perforated during the operation, and the huge doses of hormones have been linked to an increased risk of cancer. The next day, though, if there are no complications, I'm free to take my cheque and head home. At least they are putting me up in a swanky hotel while I'm there: I'm looking forward to a bit of luxury.

 I know people have moral problems with women selling their eggs. But I'm not giving up a child - it's very different from being a surrogate mother with a baby growing inside you. I think we should have the same system over here: how does the Government expect students to fund their higher education?

 When, eventually, I have a child of my own, perhaps I'll wonder if the two are alike. I suspect that if I get married in the future, my partner might not understand, so this is something I will probably have to keep secret for the rest of my life.

 There is a possibility I could become infertile later in life; the eggs I give away could result in the only biological child I ever have.

 I know many people won't be able to understand how I can do this. I could lie and say it is utterly because of altruism, but I won't. It is for money, pure and simple. It is a nice side effect that I'll be helping a family, but if the money wasn't there, I wouldn't do it. Any child that comes from my egg is no longer a part of who I am: I will never want to know anything about it.

2008 Factiva, Inc. All rights reserved.

bottom of page